What Does TMJ Pain Feel Like?

While common aches and pains can signal stress or overload for some, it may also be a red flag for a more serious condition such as TMJ. It's essential to understand the differences so that you can take care of your health and find out if you are one of the many people who suffer from TMJ.


What exactly is TMJ and what does TMJ pain feel like? Let's go over this so that you can identify the differences.

What is TMJ?

TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint disorder, which is a condition that effects the muscles of the jaw, face, neck, head or back. When these areas are misaligned or injured it can cause significant pain in these locations. Some people only suffer from their joints creaking loudly while opening and closing their mouths while others may have more severe pain accompanied by popping, clicking or popping sounds when they open their mouths. The severity of the disorder varies greatly among patients however some may not experience any pain whatsoever while suffering with TMJ.

Common TMJ Symptoms

When identifying TMJ pain, you should know that not everyone will experience every symptom the same. However, people who have TMJ usually experience one or more of the following:

Jaw Pain

Jaw pain is a common symptom associated with TMJ. The pain can feel sharp or dull, deep in the ear, or it may even extend up to your head and down your neck. This kind of TMJ symptom often is caused by tenderness that comes from inflamed muscles in the jaw.

Ear Pain

Ear pain that results from TMJ usually feels like a throbbing sensation within the ear itself. It usually occurs at night because lying horizontally allows your jaw to shift into unnatural positions, which cause friction and pressure on the ear and adjoining jaw joints (e.g., TMJs). Ears may also hurt during times of jaw movement, such as chewing, yawning, or opening/closing your mouth.


Headaches are another symptom of TMJ disorder that many people find confusing. The reason they occur is that headaches are symptomatic of an underlying issue; in this case, your jaw muscles are not relaxing when you're trying to sleep (and the subsequent shifting of joints). However, if you aren't experiencing any other symptoms like popping or clicking during yawns or chewing, it's possible for you to be suffering from TMJ without having noticeable pain.

Back, Neck, and Shoulder Pain

This symptom can often be overlooked as something else, but the truth is that TMJ disorder can cause much discomfort when it comes to your back, neck, and shoulders. This pain may be caused by the strain you're putting on these areas to compensate for your jaw's inability to move naturally; after all, if your jaw isn't moving as it should, chances are you're not opening/closing your mouth correctly when talking or chewing. If you find that even when you're standing still, you have to grip onto something to relax because there's tension in specific muscles, then it's likely that this symptom applies to you.

Treating TMJ and Lockjaw in Pittsburgh, PA

TMJ treatment, especially as it pertains to lockjaw, requires a neuromuscular dental professional. TMJ can cause a broad spectrum of symptoms making it difficult to diagnose and treat. Dr. Firouzi at the Center for Exceptional Dentistry specializes in TMJ and sleep apnea treatment making his office an excellent resource for those in need of relief. Visit our contact page here or call (412) 274-1126 today for more information.